Above: Migrants aiming to cross into Poland warm themselves by a fire on the Belarusian-Polish border in the Grodno region on November 16, 2021.
Thousands of migrants have gathered at the Belarus border crossing in recent weeks in a desperate bid to break into the EU through Poland, triggering a refugee crisis.
It’s thought 3,000 to 4,000 people are now trapped at the border between the two countries but it is hard to know the exact number as the media have been shut out from the area.
Migrants are also being denied humanitarian assistance while temperatures plummet to below zero degrees Celsius in the woodland.
Polish officers are now using tear gas and water cannons against the refugees after they allegedly showed “aggression” and threw stones at the border guards, according to Poland’s Ministry of National Defence.
The border has now become a state of emergency and is inaccessible to media, human rights groups and citizens not local to the area.
Marta Symanderska from NGO group Grupa Granica told Al Jazeera: “The use of force is completely unjustifiable because there are legal procedures which should be used from the very beginning.
“The actions of the Polish forces are not only illegal but also inhumane.”
How did we get here?
Minsk – Belarus’ capital – reduced the visa requirement for citizens from Middle Eastern and African countries earlier this year, while Belarusian tourist agencies started to offer cheap and easy ways to get to Europe.
Then in August, Polish guards started denying the right of any people coming from Belarus to cross the border and claim asylum, but it escalated on November 8 when refugee numbers soared.
Why are the refugees trapped?
The EU has therefore accused Belarus of encouraging migrants towards the border to try to destabilise the bloc, although the country has denied the allegation.
The Polish Border Guard has claimed: “Everything is taking place under the supervision of Belarusian forces.”
It’s said this could be an act of revenge against Poland after it supported the citizen’s protests against Belarusian ruler President Alexander Lukashenko last year.
Poland has also passed a law that allows troops to push the migrants back although this has raised eyebrows in the international community.
While this blame game continues, thousands of refugees are trapped in no-man’s land between the two countries, spending weeks in the woodlands.
A child with ‘Help’ written on their forehead at the Belarusian border.
Several thousand migrants have approached the Belarusian-Polish border and set up a tent camp there; some of them tried to cross the border by breaking a barbed wire fence.
A transport and logistics centre in Bruzgi has been offered as a temporary accommodation for migrants on the Belarusian-Polish border.
Migrants travelling towards the transport and logistics centre in Bruzgi on the border.
Migrants aiming to cross into Poland warm themselves by fires on the Belarusian-Polish border in the Grodno region, pictured on Tuesday November 16.
Migrants camped in a hall on the border with Poland.
Polish riot police officers and migrants are seen near the Bruzgi - Kuznica crossing point on the Belarusian-Polish border. Polish border guards use tear gas and water jets to disperse migrants.
Migrants aiming to cross into Poland gather near the Bruzgi-Kuznica border crossing on the Belarusian-Polish border in the Grodno region on November 16, 2021.
Migrants queue near the border crossing with Poland to get something to eat and drink.
Migrants camped in a hall on the border with Poland as the humanitarian crisis continues.
Irregular migrants end up at the Polish border crossing as Polish security forces take measures on the Belarus-Polish border.